How To Drink Korean Soju Like A Local

A bottle pouring soju into a shot glass held by hands
A bottle pouring soju into a shot glass held by hands - journey601/Shutterstock

Soju is not just a drink in Korea; it's a cultural experience. This clear distilled spirit served in a green bottle has deep roots in Korean history and is enjoyed by people of all backgrounds. Whether you're new to soju or are a seasoned enthusiast, knowing how to (properly) drink it can enhance your enjoyment of this iconic Korean beverage. Before diving into how the locals enjoy this liquor, it's essential to first understand what soju is (and perhaps, some of the best soju brands).

Soju is typically made from grains such as rice, barley, or wheat, and has a relatively high alcohol content. It's best served chilled, straight from the refrigerator, to enhance its smoothness and subtle flavors. Resist the urge to add ice, which can dilute the taste, and plan to serve it in traditional soju glasses, which are small and narrow and designed to encourage sipping rather than gulping. When serving soju to others, the eldest person at the table has the right to pour first.

For the younger members, Andy Im, owner of a Korean BBQ restaurant, explained to KUOW, "You would receive the soju in a shot glass with two hands from the senior, and you would have to turn away and not to [be] face to face when you drink." Turning away is a display of respect. The pour should be until the glass is nearly complete, as it's customary not to fill it all the way. Before drinking, it's common to say "gunbae" (which means "cheers" in Korean). The first sip can be enjoyed as a shot, but subsequent servings should be sipped to savor the delicate sweetness of the soju.

Read more: 13 Liquors Your Home Bar Should Have

How To Use Soju In Cocktails

Soju being poured from a bottle into a shot glass
Soju being poured from a bottle into a shot glass - 4kodiak/Getty Images

While soju is often enjoyed neat or with simple accompaniments like Korean barbecue or other traditional Korean dishes, it's also a versatile spirit for crafting cocktails. Here are a few popular soju-based beverages to consider. The Soju Mojito combines fresh mint leaves, lime wedges, simple syrup, and soju in a glass for a refreshing drink. A Watermelon Soju blends fresh watermelon with soju, ice, and a splash of lime juice for a fruity and summery cocktail. And soju's mild flavor makes it a perfect swap for vodka in a range of cocktails.

For a more social (and local) experience, try a Somaek cocktail made from soju and maekju (which is Korean for beer). This popular combo involves mixing soju with light beer, creating a fizzy and refreshing beverage. Lighter soju varieties lend themselves well to mixed drinks. Explore recipes that incorporate fruit juices or botanical infusions to bring out the spirit's unique flavor. As with any alcoholic beverage, moderation is key when drinking soju -- pace yourself and savor the flavors.

With a better understanding of Korean etiquette and options, you're well on your way to becoming a soju aficionado and enjoying the drink like a local. So, grab a chilled bottle, gather some friends, and embark on your soju journey. Drinking soju is not just about consuming a beverage; it's about embracing Korean culture, traditions, and social interactions. Whether you prefer it neat or in a cocktail, the key is to appreciate its smoothness, versatility, and the joy it brings to shared moments with friends and family.

Read the original article on Tasting Table